Look into SARS, MPs tell Gigaba amid glaring tax shortfall

Cape Town - Members of Parliament asked Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Thursday to look into the administration of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) on the back of revelations in the mini budget that the country faces a revenue collection shortfall of R50.8bn. 

On Thursday, Gigaba and National Treasury director general Dondo Mogajane briefed members of Parliament's finance committees on the Medium-term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) tabled the previous day. 

During question time, Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Ockert Terblanche wanted to know from Gigaba if the under-collection of tax could be ascribed to a "wholesale underperformance" by SARS commissioner Tom Moyane. "What are you doing about this?" 

Charl de Beer (ANC), chairperson of the select committee on finance, asked Gigaba if there were any intentions to deal with tax collection. "We want action plans." 

The DA's Brandon Topham also weighed in, telling Gigaba that there seems to be "a lot more" to the R50.8bn under-collection of tax. "There may be a rolling of payment and collection. I suggest you do a performance appraisal for senior SARS officials and see if they’ve reported truthfully." 

Yunus Carrim (ANC), chairperson of the standing committee on finance, said to Gigaba Parliament is concerned about the fact that SARS has not produced its annual report yet. "It's very bad. We read somewhere that SARS is taking the auditor-general to court. We have the right to know."

EWN reported earlier that Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu had told parliament that SARS is threatening to take his office to court over a disputed audit finding.

Gigaba confirmed on Thursday that it was indeed the case. He acknowledged that there are "challenges" with the SARS annual report and that officials told him the reasons for the delay. "SARS failed to resolve the matter (the difference of opinion) with the AG and they had to seek a resolution through a court process." 

Gigaba added that National Treasury will engage with the AG, since more and more departments have recently started disputing his audit opinions. 

Fin24 last year quoted Makwetu as saying that contestations and pushbacks on audit outcomes without substance were on the increase. "This makes for a very unpleasant exercise to conduct audit exercises," he said at the time.

During Thursday's briefing, Carrim asked Gigaba to look into the challenges at SARS. 

"You seem to be saying there are administrative problems at SARS. But they (SARS) seem to think everything must be blamed on the growth rates. We don't think everything can be blamed on sluggish growth." 

(Moyane, who was also present at a media conference ahead of the mini budget statement on Wednesday, told journalists the under-collection of revenue is due to low GDP growth, which in turn results in lower personal income tax and VAT payments among other things.)

Carrim added that there is some "nonchalance" from the SARS commissioner when SARS is called to report back to Parliament.

"Speak to the commissioner," Carrim said. 

Gigaba said he accepted the proposals around addressing the issues around SARS. "I’m engaging with them seriously so we can deal with the administration issues." 

* Visit our Mini Budget Special Issue for all the news, views and analysis.

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